Question: I bet you’re sick of questions about how to escape boredom on the trainer, but this winter has gone on forever and I’m still grinding away in the basement.
I try to pedal for at least an hour, four days a week. I’ve followed all your previous workout advice. Do you have any other sanity-saving ideas till the weather finally allows me to ride outside? — Bill B.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Several months on the trainer would drive a medieval monk, accustomed to the severest discipline of a monastery, to blasphemy and despair.
So, it’s time to throw away the standard methods of boredom relief and try my “last resort” technique. It won’t save your soul but it might rescue your sanity. Here it is:
Simply set a lower limit on the time you ride the trainer.
Make it about half your usual session. In your case, cut it to 30 minutes. Then write out a minute-by-minute schedule for the half hour. Put it where you can read it. Get on the devil machine and follow the schedule exactly. The time will fly. Well, maybe not fly, but at least it will go faster than “standard trainer time.”
Why doesthis work? It takes advantage of a nifty psychological trick that I employed when I taught writing in high school.
Teachers know the first question they’ll receive when they assign a paper, a plaintive “How long does it have to be?” My answer was: “It can’t be any longer than one page. I won’t read anything after that.”
Students loved this answer at first, because they thought it meant less work for them. In fact, as any writer knows, it’s much harder to cram your thesis, evidence and transitions into a limited space. You have to eliminate excess words and include only what’s important.
The same is true of a trainer workout. If you hop on the bike with an open-ended plan to spin along until you get bored or tired, the minutes will crawl. The workout will be tedious — like a 10-page paper that says nothing.
But if you only have 30 minutes to train and a specific schedule that forces you to fit as much work as possible into that fleeting half hour, the time will zip by as you race to get it all done.
If you’ve ever squeezed a workout into the only free 30-minute slot you had all day, you’ll recognize the feeling.
Will the abbreviated workout result in less fitness? Probably just the opposite. You’ll work harder in 30 minutes — and get more benefit — than you did slogging for an hour and hating every second. And you’ll be less likely to dread the next session, too.
If you can handle 30 minutes, consider increasing to 45 as tightly organized. But never, ever go over 45 minutes. That way madness lies.